Saturday, 20 June 2009

Toyota's Prius Big in Japan

Associated Press

TOKYO – Toyota Motor Corp. got 180,000 orders for the new Prius hybrid in Japan in just a month, far surpassing its target of 10,000 vehicles in monthly sales, the automaker said Friday.
The third-generation Prius, which rolled out a month ago, has been a big hit here, partly because of tax-breaks and other new government incentives that are meant to perk growth during the nation's downturn.
The Prius was the No. 1 selling vehicle in Japan for May, clinching the top spot in the domestic market for the first time and overtaking Honda's new hybrid, the Insight, which fell to third after taking the top spot in April.

A worker examines a newly assembled Prius at Toyota Tsutsumi Plant in Toyota, central Japan, in this photo taken on June 5, 2009.

Competition in the hybrid vehicle market has intensified after the Insight debuted in February in Japan at 1.89 million yen ($19,700). Toyota is offering its new Prius at just over ¥2 million, about ¥300,000 cheaper than the previous model. The upgrade has a larger 1.8-liter engine but gets better mileage than the older one.
The new Prius is just starting to arrive in the U.S., where sales for last month totaled just 700. Dealers are still selling mostly the second-generation Prius, making for total Prius sales of 10,091 for May, Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco said.
Strong hybrid sales are a rare bright spot for Japan's automakers, which have been battered by the global slowdown, a strengthening yen and the U.S. credit crunch.
Toyota, the world's biggest automaker, which also makes the Camry sedan and Lexus luxury models, recorded its worst loss in its seven-decade history for the fiscal year ended March.
In Japan, hybrids are now tax-free, delivering savings of about ¥150,000 for a Prius buyer. Other fuel-efficient models qualify for lower savings.
Also helping is a "cash-for-clunkers" program similar to the plan initiated by President Barack Obama, which offers vouchers worth up to $4,500 for a gas-guzzler turned in for a new car in the U.S.
In Japan, people who trade in a car 13 years or older get a ¥250,000 rebate for buying an ecological model. Those without a trade-in get ¥100,000.
Toyota is also continuing to sell the old-style Prius in Japan at the same price as the Insight. That's relatively unusual as manufacturing of old models is usually discontinued with the arrival of the new model. Those sales numbers aren't included in Friday's orders number from Toyota.
But while hybrid sales are booming, demand for other models is plunging.
The overall auto market continues to sag in Japan. Vehicle sales in Japan fell for the 10th straight month in May, dropping 19.4% from the same month the previous year, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers' Association.
The decline has been easing from previous months as sales fell 29% in April and 31.5% in March. Toyota's vehicle sales in Japan tumbled 24% in May from the same month a year ago.
Copyright © 2009 Associated Press

Japan looking sunny for makers of solar panels

The Times
June 20, 2009

Robert Lindsay

Talk that the clouds were finally lifting from the world’s solar power market helped to make PV Crystalox Solar, the long-suffering solar supplier, the second-best performer in the FTSE 350.
Kyocera Corp, of Japan, the world’s sixth-largest solar panel maker, triggered the sunny mood when it reported a 50 per cent increase in orders for rooftop panels from households in January to April.
Japan is the remaining hope for PV Crystalox, which supplies panel manufacturers such as Kyocera with wafers. The Japanese Government has moved to bolster demand for solar panels and next year hopes to guarantee prices for surplus electricity produced by home panels. No one knows if this will be enough to counteract falling demand from Europe, but Kyocera said that there had been improvement in European orders. Sharp, PVC’s biggest customer, recently predicted that its solar panel business would return to profit next year, amid a surge in demand from Japan.

David Cunningham, an analyst at Arbuthnot, reiterated “buy” advice with a 160p target. PVC rose 8p, 10 per cent, to 89¾p.
The FTSE 100 closed up 65.07 points at 4,345.93 amid high-volume trading, with banks and commodity stocks on the rise. Most traders refused to trust the move since it came on “triple witching” day, when futures and options expire and funds must close positions and reinvest.
There was a sudden rise in the index in mid-morning, rumoured to be driven by frantic buying by a fund that had missed an auction. The FTSE 350’s top gainer was Mitchells & Butlers as Joe Lewis, the Bahamas-based billionaire, who has been critical of the pub group’s management, raised his stake from 21.7 to 22.3 per cent.
Carnival, the cruise ship operator, continued to recover after its outlook statement on Thursday, which was better than expected, gaining 97p to £16.68. Aviva, the insurer, was bolstered 18½p to 336¾p by a “buy” note from Deutsche Bank, which lifted its price target from 350p to 385p.
Smiths Group fell 14½p to 649p, making an 11 per cent slide over the week, amid concerns over the weak dollar and slow orders for its detection business and medical products, which are squeezed by hospital budget cuts.
British Airways rose 1.9p to 136.4p despite rising crude prices amid suggestions that shareholders might not object if it followed Air France-KLM, which on Thursday announced a €575 million convertible bond issue.
Taylor Wimpey, up 3p at 34p, led a housebuilders’ rally after saying that there were signs of housing market stability. Berkeley Group rose 18½p to 773p despite Saad selling down more of its stake.
Rightmove, the home search website, rose 4¼p to 350p after it briefed analysts that the number of estate agents closing had dropped sharply and that it believed house prices will increase next year. Cannacord, the broker, raised its target price to 387p.
• New York: Microsoft offered encouragement to Wall Street as its shares rose 2.6 per cent after Goldman Sachs’ announcement that it expected growth from the software group. The Dow Jones industrial average was at 8,556.13 points, up 0.53, at midday.

The race is on to create a new world of energy

The Times
June 20, 2009
Jeroen van der Veer

We stand at the early dawn of a new energy future. It will be powered by alternative energy and cleaner fossil fuels. If governments adopt the right rules and incentives, by the middle of this century renewable sources will provide nearly 30 per cent of the world’s energy. Society will be on the road toward sustainable mobility. The world’s highways will rumble and whir with vehicles powered by all manner of energy: petrol, diesel (yes, still there), electricity, biofuels, natural gas and hydrogen.
In the years ahead, conventional diesel and petrol cars will go increasingly far on every litre of fuel. Biofuels will account for up to 10 per cent of liquid transport fuel in the next few decades. Our Shell scenario-makers think that by 2020 up to 15 per cent of new cars worldwide could be hybrid electrics, such as Toyota’s Prius, some of them capable of plugging in to recharge their batteries. After 2030, fuel cell vehicles powered by hydrogen will be a small but growing part of the fleet. By 2050, more than a billion extra vehicles are expected on the world’s roads, more than double today’s total.
Greater variety of fuel choices will be a boon for consumers. Different fuels will be stronger in different regions. In South America, biofuels will likely predominate. In Brazil, ethanol from sugar cane already supplies more than 40 per cent of demand for petrol. China, meanwhile, plans to expand production and use of hybrid and electric vehicles, tapping its vast coal deposits to generate power.
As more vehicles go electric, the environmental footprint of the world’s power generators will become even more important. Wind, solar and hydropower will account for 30 per cent of electricity generation by 2030, up from about 18 per cent today. Many new coal-fired power plants are expected to capture CO2 emissions and store it safely underground, rather than pump it into the atmosphere. Plants increasingly will turn coal into a gas, rather than burn it. They will then burn the gas to generate power, or use it as raw material for a variety of chemical products, while CO2 will be captured and stored. Such integrated plants will begin to resemble refineries. Likewise, refineries can gasify heavy oils — and use the gas to produce hydrogen — and generate heat and electricity — while capturing and storing the CO2.

Indeed, fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas, will continue to provide more than half the world’s energy in 2050, building a long bridge to an era when alternatives can take over. A growing population and higher standards of living for billions of people in the developing world will mean that we need all available sources of energy to keep the world’s economies humming. So, while the world races to build up alternative fuels, it must also find new sources of fossil fuels, including unconventional ones, such as oil sands. And we must accelerate efforts to make fossil fuels cleaner, by reducing the CO2 emitted in their production and use.
None of this will be easy, or cheap. Industry and government regulations must change on a huge scale and at an unprecedented pace. According to the International Energy Agency, by 2030 we will need to invest $5.5 trillion merely in renewable energy. That’s like buying more than 18,000 Boeing 747 jumbo jets at $300 million apiece (only about 14,000 have been built since its introduction in 1970). Billions more must go into upgrading electricity transmission networks to handle increased demand and the on-and-off power generated by wind and solar.
Much of this money will come from private companies, but governments will need to continue using tax credits and other incentives to encourage the growth of renewables. They are still small relative to the world’s overall energy needs. Including hydropower, renewables account for about 7 per cent of global energy. Wind today supplies about 1 per cent, with approximately 70,000 turbines. Biofuels, thanks partly to billions of dollars in government subsidies, now also supply about 1 per cent.
To judge from society’s experience with nuclear power and other technologies, new energy sources take at least 25 years to reach significant scale. To illustrate the challenge, in the case of wind the world will need another 1-1.5 million turbines covering an area nearly the size of France in order to reach 10 per cent of the electricity generated by 2030. That means expanding today’s worldwide turbine production of about 15,000 a year to just under 100,000 a year by 2030.
Energy companies are already preparing for the future, increasing production of natural gas, the cleanest fossil fuel, investing in renewables, such as sustainable biofuels, and researching ways to capture CO2 and store it safely underground. But the enormity of the challenge means that government should do its part to encourage society’s shift to a new energy system. For instance, new technologies with great promise to reduce CO2 emissions will require initial government support to achieve quickly the scale necessary to have real impact.
One critical step is to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions — doing so in all leading countries, not merely a few. I prefer a system that caps emissions and allows companies to trade emission allowances, as Europe’s already does. Cap-and-trade systems should encourage a relatively steady CO2 price, which will have the strongest influence on energy consumers’ behaviour and on the efficiency designed into factories, homes and offices. It will also harness the ingenuity of industry and channel investment to the most efficient emission reductions.
While energy policy can drive technology, it may ultimately raise costs and be politically unpopular. As society and political leaders face difficult choices, they should remember that failure to act now could force us into more painful choices down the road.
Influencing consumer behaviour may prove toughest of all. While technology will give society greater energy choices, it remains unclear whether people are willing to become better users of energy.
Despite the massive hurdles, the push to create a new energy system will benefit us all. It will reverse the rapid rise in the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming. It will provide new business opportunities for companies and entrepreneurs. It will create well-paid jobs in a thriving new industry. Competition among energy sources will drive innovation, keep energy affordable and increase global energy security. The race is on.
• Jeroen van der Veer is the departing chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell

Senergy makes a break for expanding Middle East renewables

Published Date: 20 June 2009

SCOTLAND can learn from Middle East renewable energy projects, according to the head of a fast-growing energy firm.
James McCallum, the chief executive and founder of the Aberdeen-based energy services firm Senergy, said he wanted to bring back knowledge and experience from the United Arab Emirates to help develop Scotland's renewable energy sector.McCallum recently moved to Abu Dhabi to expand Senergy's work in the Middle East, building on the firm's experience in the North Sea oil and gas sector.First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday opened Senergy's new office in Edinburgh, from where the firm will train clients.Senergy, which employs about 400 staff, said it wanted to expand its work in the renewables sector, which accounts for about 3 per cent of the company's £70 million turnover.The firm said it aims to double its turnover in the next three years and wants 40 per cent of its revenues to come from the renewable energy sector by 2013.McCallum told The Scotsman: "In ten years' time, it's impossible to imagine Senergy being successful and still based solely in the North Sea. We need to be in the Middle East market."But the other thing that's exciting about being in the Middle East is that, ironically for the lowest-cost producing region in the world in terms of fossil fuels, in cities like Abu Dhabi, you're seeing an awareness of the need for balanced energy."They're taking a more enlightened approach to what they can do. So they're investing in solar power and also looking at wind and carbon capture."

The End of the Line is making waves for fish stocks recovery

Retailers are beginning to respond but we must keep up the pressure for sustainable catches

Felicity Lawrence, Friday 19 June 2009 16.58 BST

The End of the Line began life as a ground-breaking book by the environment journalist Charles Clover in 2004. It was an impassioned description of the wanton destruction being wreaked on fish stocks by industrial fishing round the world. It left me feeling both angry and despondent. Now it's been turned into a film of the same title, and it's a must-see.
Perhaps it's the gorgeous, uplifting pictures of underwater life, or the fact that Charles has kept going with his crusade for over 20 years, but the effect on me of the film was different: it's more galvanising than depressing. It too makes you angry, but film has the power to reach a wider audience and it feels as though this one may just lead to action. If it doesn't, as Prof Boris Worm, the gloriously named marine conservation expert who appears in it, says, we'll end up with no seafood at all in 50 years' time.
Humanity has always exploited the oceans, but until the 1950s our ability to inflict damage on the sea was restricted by the physical limitations of boats and the elements. Since then, highly capitalised, often subsidised fleets with more and more advanced equipment have been able to exploit every last depth, deploying technologies originally designed for military use – from sonar to satellite mapping – to target everything that moves. Governments and the industrial fishing industry with their annual quotas and over-optimistic calculations of stocks persist in the notion that we can negotiate with biology. But we can't.
It was another marine conservationist, Prof Callum Roberts, who first helped me see how our current fishing policy would end in collapse.
He has a collection of old photographs of fishermen and their catch going back a hundred years and more. Irish fishermen in the early 20th century standing next to common skate caught near their shores that were nearly twice their own size; the common skate as its name implies was abundant then but is now extinct in many areas. The hold of a 1905 Lowestoft fishing boat employing over a dozen men is so bursting with mackerel that the fish fill the decks to the gunnels. Anglers of the time stand next to their trawl from a day's leisurely fishing: prize specimens so large and plentiful they are strung up row upon row. They reminded me of the Victorian pictures of old colonial hunters in Africa photographed next to their bag from a day's hunting. They happily shot every tiger that moved, little thinking they might wipe them all out.
Roberts is a great optimist though. He says that where marine reserves are introduced and proper no-catch zones are enforced before areas collapse, biodiversity can recover quite well and fish stocks around the exclusion zones can increase, giving fishermen batter catches. It is nearly, but not completely, too late.
Fortunately, consumer attitudes are changing. When I wrote my own chapter on fish in Eat Your Heart Out in 2008, about 7% of world fish stocks were certified or being assessed by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as sustainable sources of seafood. Supermarkets and high street chains were beginning to respond to pressure from campaign groups such as Greenpeace to take endangered species out of their shops.
Now, the supermarkets have increased their targets for sustainable fish, and The End of the Line's film release has prompted a flurry of announcements – most notably from M&S and Pret a Manger – to move even faster. And there's no doubt the MSC label is starting to appear on a wider range of fish in supermarkets and restaurants.
There is reason to hope that fish stocks can still recover, but we need to keep asking for sustainable catches. Keep the pressure up.